Wind Energy & Open Data

I've thought a lot about renewable energy in various forms for some time now, especially since I moved to PEI where a good amount of our energy can come from wind. The official figure I've heard varies from 15% (source) to 18% (source). That is pretty good, but when you figure only 20% comes from nuclear (when Point Lepreau is up and running) that indicates a lot of our energy comes from oil and coal.

In 2008 Premier Robert Ghiz put forth a plan to increase our output from the 149 or so MegaWatts we currently produce to 500. That would allow us to increase our wind consumption to 30%, directly cutting from oil and coal. This has obviously not happened, as his plan called for the first 100MW to come online this year. The culprit was a combination of the recession, the failure of Canada to implement a cap and trade system on our CO2 useage, and low oil prices. The proposals by developers would have required that the energy be sold at a higher rate than what we currently pay, and that's already the highest in Canada (according to Manitoba Hydro (source), .169$/kWh).

One thing that will help out wind energy is that the price of oil is back up (~$108/barrel). The economy looks like it is slowly getting back on track as well, though how much of that is an illusion remains to be seen.

The government claims that the 500MW plan is still in effect, once they get some good proposals from developers. This is good news.

When researching information about wind energy on PEI, or anything to do with electricity, I found there was not a good source of information. I admit I don't look beyond page one of google's search results, but I do try to query the best I can to find this information. The fact that I had to go to Manitoba Hydro to find out what we pay for electricity is funny (of course I could have checked my bill, but I can't link to that). One person who also feels this pain but is doing something about it is Peter Rukavina. He is looking to open up government data, particularly how much energy is being generated by our wind farms. It turns out there just isn't any publicly available data on that. In fact, the North Cape Wind Farm isn't even permanently connected to the internet, it's on dial up! (So much for the island getting high speed internet)

Peter was able to use some data from the New Brunswick System Operator website and scrape the data into an tracking system here. That page shows how much energy and where that energy is coming from for the NB system. Of particular note is the PEI component. I've actually used the code from that page to embed a little graph on the right hand side of my blog here so you can see at any point what our energy flow with NB has been doing. If the number is positive, it means we are importing energy from NB. If it goes negative it means that the wind must be blowing and our demand is actually low enough that we're exporting wind energy to NB. That occurred for the first time since the feed went live last night.

Thank you Peter for all the work, meeting with politicians, writing the code, and the interest in our wind energy. I look forward to further developments and I'd be interested in helping out in any way I could.

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